WGF and Partners Lead Climate Readiness Assessment

WI Green Fire, September 8, 2021

MC Core Team Group at Korn Dam

Throughout 2021, Wisconsin’s Green Fire (WGF) has led the development of a first of its kind effort to conduct a rapid, comprehensive assessment bringing together climate readiness and conservation-based economic opportunities in a rural Western Wisconsin county.  While state and federal governments play an essential role in developing climate policy and leading climate research, on-the ground actions to address climate change impacts are needed most at the community level.

WGF launched the Monroe County Climate Readiness and Rural Economic Opportunity Assessment in May 2021 and will conclude the project’s first phase by November 30th, 2021.

For the Monroe County project, WGF recruited a team of specialists / collaborators who together bring the skills and experience to help communities identify and address climate vulnerabilities and assist them in crafting a 30-year vision for conservation and climate resilience.  Our partners include The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin, Wisconsin Land and Water, the Northern Institute for Applied Climate Science, the Wisconsin Initiative for Climate Change Impacts, and staff from the dam safety, waterways, forestry and fisheries programs of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  Our team works closely with the Monroe County Climate Change Task Force led by local officials and County Land Conservation Director Bob Micheel.  Our methods include a rapid, science-based analytical assessment together with qualitative assessments built on input and guidance from community leaders and stakeholders, all designed to create useful and actionable deliverables.  Collectively, our team reflects some of the best expertise in climate change in conservation and natural resources available in Wisconsin.

Our Climate Readiness and Rural Economic Opportunity Assessment model addresses the primary climate risks and vulnerabilities experienced by rural communities throughout the Midwestern United States.  Our work addresses both the need to support effective climate planning and the importance of capturing climate-related economic opportunities. 

Our 2021 climate readiness team of specialists are organized around five subject areas:

  • Climate and Hydrology
  • Watersheds and Infrastructure
  • Agriculture
  • Forests
  • Community Engagement

The assessments include an assessment of climate vulnerabilities at the watershed level based on climate and rainfall models and watershed modeling tools developed by research scientists at the UW-Madison.  Our modeling work is complemented by qualitative assessments conducted by our subject matter team members, grounded and field tested with input from local experts, agency and government leaders, and concerned citizens.  Our assessment sequence includes the following stages:

  • Assess Current Climate Impacts and Vulnerabilities
  • Identify and Engage a Spectrum of Community Members, Including At-risk and Vulnerable Populations
  • Model the Impact of Alternative Land Use and Conservation Practices and Develop Future Resilient Scenarios
  • Findings and Recommendations for Resiliency Actions, Investments, and Policies

Our experience has shown us that effective conversations about climate change in rural communities requires an understanding of the multiple ways that climate intersects with other important themes of rural life. We will focus throughout the project on climate resilience solutions that meet the four-way test of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing climate resiliency, promoting soil and water conservation, and sustaining rural prosperity.